Pregnant Mom Charged With Feticide in Drunk Driving Crash

Ga. woman likely to be charged with death of 28-week fetus following chase.

May 13, 2010— -- A pregnant Georgia woman, who led police on a high speed chase, will likely be charged in the death of the 24-week-old baby she was carrying.

Police said Jessica Bruce, 21, refused to stop her car Wednesday night when they tried to pull her over for speeding. Bruce fled, struck a car, spun into oncoming traffic and was hit by another car, totaling her vehicle and killing the fetus, authorities said.

Investigators said Bruce, who was clocked by radar driving 85 mph in a 65 mph zone in a suburban neighborhood outside Atlanta, needed to be cut from the wreckage of her car and taken to the hospital. The woman in the first car she struck was also taken to the hospital.

"Sounded like a big explosion. [I saw] one car just kind of go airborne and slam into the back of the other one," witness Tracey Harris told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV. "Her car just came apart… The whole tail-end kind of it came off. Her stuff was all over the street."

Authorities are still awaiting the results of an autopsy performed on the fetus and a toxicology test given to Bruce. They believe Bruce was drunk at the time.

The results of those tests will determine how prosecutors proceed. Based on preliminary information, it is likely Bruce will be charged with "feticide by vehicle," according to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade.

"The preliminary investigation leads us to believe she was under the influence of alcohol," McDade told "She was fleeing police at a high rate of speed and driving dangerously."

The maximum penalty in Georgia for vehicular feticide carries a 15-year prison sentence.

McDade said investigators are awaiting the autopsy to determine whether the fetus died as a result of the collision.

Fetuses Recognized as Victims in 24 States

Bruce, he said, would not be charged until she leaves the hospital.

"She's still in the hospital. We'll wait until she is discharged before we bring formal charges," he said.

Calls to Bruce's hospital room at Grady Memorial Hospital went unanswered. A duty nurse said she was awake, but "still a bit out of it."

Authorities believe the fetus was 24-weeks-old and died as a result of the crash.

"The investigation is ongoing," McDade said. "An autopsy is being performed on the child and there will almost certainly be criminal responsibility… Under the Georgia statute it doesn't matter the age of the child as long as it was alive just prior to the incident."

Twenty-four states recognize the "fetus as a victim" in specially written laws that deal with the death of a fetus in drunk driving cases, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Georgia is exceptional in that it's the only state with a specific law pertaining to what it calls "feticide by vehicle."

In several states the age of the fetus at the time of death changes the penalty. Seven states have laws that punish someone deemed responsible for the death of a fetus from the time of its conception.

In other states penalties begin at 7 weeks or 12 weeks.

Five states consider a fetus a person whose death can result in a full-fledged murder charge when in the "quickening state" at 16-18 weeks. Another three states charge a suspect with murder only once the fetus is deemed viable, that is at least 28-weeks-old and capable of surviving outside the womb, according to MADD.